Jeffree Star: Why We Have to Stop Waiting for People to Change
If you don’t live under a rock, you know Jeffree Star as either the highly successful makeup artist on YouTube, the entrepreneur who runs his own makeup brand, or the guy on the very viral Shane Dawson “docu-series.” He has been in the YouTube makeup game since 2015, building his career from the ground up, and now enjoying the fruits of his labor: Gucci clothes, Barbie pink everything, and endless cars. However, time and time again, his career has been tainted with accusations of racism discomforting enough to keep a community of wary YouTubers and makeup artists away from him and his products, but subtle or old enough to keep an entire audience of ten million subscribers wrapped around his manicured finger.
Jeffree Star has, inevitably, responded to his past–even if it took over two years to do so. Videos of him saying the n-word to women and portraying stereotypes on MySpace came to light just as his fame skyrocketed, causing many YouTubers and subscribers alike to stay away from him. Finally, in June 2017, Jeffree Star ended his silence and released a full apology video, appropriately titled “RACISM.” He described the now-thirteen-year-old videos as “disgusting, vile, nasty, and embarrassing things,” and went on to bring an argument he still uses today: he was depressed and “angry at the world,” and saying those derogatory words was something he would never do today.
Flash forward to about two weeks ago when Star’s former hair stylist, Daved Anthony Munoz, shared a video of him exposing conversations between him and Star. Munoz expressed how sorry he is for his own past, as he scrolled through the texts from 2017–the same year as the apology video–which show Star calling fellow YouTuber Jackie Aina slurs, including the n-word. Furthermore, earlier this week, Star wore cornrows for a holiday shoot, prompting more accusations of racism and cultural insensitivity.
So why isn’t he “over” or “cancelled?” He is yet to acknowledge Aina’s open letter calling out his racist behavior, only turning to his Snapchat followers to shade Munoz for being a liar. Yet other makeup artists under the same boat such as Laura Lee, for example, have (rightfully) lost many fans and fame. In Lee’s case, she lost well over 500,000 subscribers when her racist tweets from 2012 were resurfaced, and her subpar apology video was criticized for lacking real empathy and emotions. Her Tweets were simply inexcusable, telling black people to “pull ur pants up [so] you can run from the police faster #yourwelcome,” costing her sponsorships and collaborations from Ulta, Colourpop, and Morphe Brushes.
It is only a slight surprise to learn, however, that Morphe is the only retailer to sell Jeffree Star’s makeup line. Morphe has shown unwavering support, parading him at every one of their new U.S. store grand openings. If the brand was so quick to drop Laura Lee, what is holding them back from Star? It is the fact that we are all turning our heads the other way; it is the fact that he has never been truly held accountable; it is the fact that Star strategically released his docu-series with Shane Dawson, sharing “his truth.”
I am convinced that Star, while sorry, is sorry for the wrong reasons. He was sorry that he was caught–not for bringing down black women and disrespecting black culture. Aina brought up an excellent point in her open letter: “If there’s going to be a standard, let’s raise it for everyone. Let’s stop making exceptions for people just because we like the way they blend their eyeshadow.”